Robert George Torrens - A biographic note

Introduction

This is an autobiographical note, type-written by my father, Robert George Torrens (4.8.1903 - 12.5.1981). I have the original in his papers. This version has been manually re-keyed into the computer.

Notes in square brackets are inserted by myself, Richard John Torrens, but the rest is transcribed verbatim from my father's note.


Irish Eye-witness

By R G Torrens

Biographic details:

Born at Youghal, Co. Cork in 1903, of loyal and protestant parents. My father [John (Jack) Morrison Torrens (11.3.1877 - 22.2.1944)] was a Pharmaceutical Chemist, and optician and dentist. Educated at Clonmel Grammer School, entered Dental School at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1920, from which I graduated in 1924. I practised for a year in Youghall and then went to Bournemouth in 1926, in private practise, from 1934 I was a consultant Dental Surgeon till my retirement in 1969. In 1927 was made a Freeman of the Ancient Borough of Youghal. [RGT's scrapbook contains a press cutting, dated 30th December, about this.]


Perhaps the best indication of the mutual antagonism between the two sides could best be summarised in a short paragraph published in the Sinn Fein News Letter called "Nationality", dated January, 12 1819 which ran:-

(extract not available)

A complimentary copy of this was sent to my father with the paragraph marked, and well demonstrated the atmosphere of those times.

In the 1916 rebellion, being at school the troubles were hardly noticed, my first direct experience however gave me a great shock.

After the war had ended and I had qualified I practised in Youghal for about a year, but found that there was not enough work to do, the locals had not been educated to demand dentistry. The bulk of the work was on market days when extractions at 2/6 a time were common. There was no health service to encourage patient, I decided to go to England.


Notes on above, added by Richard Torrens.

  1. The shelling of the Four Courts was at the end of June 1922 and the burning of the Custom House over a year earlier. RGT's memory has clearly elided the two!

Notes

The following notes are inserted as a result of emails between myself and Richard Hawkins of the Royal Irish Academy's > Dictionary of Irish Biography project
  1. at that time 'chief constable' was not an R.I.C. rank - the most similar-sounding title was 'head constable', which denoted the highest non-commissioned rank in the force, directly below 'district inspector'.
  2. Jim Herlihy's The Royal Irish Constabulary: a complete alphabetical list of officers and men, 1816-1922 (Dublin, 1999) does not include a 'Roddoc'; there is a 'Roddon', but he would have joined the force over fifty years before the incident described and is most unlikely to have been still serving; a 'Roddick', who would have joined too recently to have been a head constable; and one 'Rodden', who is at least possible as far as dates are concerned.
  3. Constable Prendergast appears in Richard Abbott's book Police casualties 1919-22 (Cork and Dublin, 2000), p. 163, as Maurice Prendiville, service no. 57219, from Kerry, aged 45, married with five children, and with 25 years service in the R.I.C.
  4. The Irish Air Letter publication 'A history of the Royal Air Force and United States Naval Air Service in Ireland 1913-1923' (Killiney, Co. Dublin, 1988). Chapter 8 (pp 68-76) gives a list of aircraft losses between 4 May 1918 and 25 November 1922. It includes no incident of an aircraft being shot down, though there are many cases of forced landings; in several of these the aircraft concerned was attacked on the ground by IRA members, and in a few cases damaged or destroyed. By the spring of 1921 it seems to have been standard practice that the crew of a mail-carrying aircraft should, in the event of a forced landing without immediate prospect of rescue, destroy the mail. However, in at least one case (which occurred after the shooting of Mr Cathcart) mail that had been set on fire by the crew was recovered by the IRA with much of it still legible; see p. 73, incident of 20 May 1921.

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Page's Author: Richard Torrens
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